Main Suspect in October 2000 Killing Refused Lie Detector Test Six Times

A police officer suspected of killing an Israeli Arab during the October 2000 riots refused to turn up for a polygraph examination five times in a row. The sixth time, when he did show up, he refused to answer more than one question and eventually left without being tested.

The information comes from material about the death of Asel Asleh collected by the Justice Ministry's Police Investigation Department (PID), which was later submitted to Adalah - the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

The officer, who was the main suspect in Asleh's killing, was not compelled to undergo the lie detector test, and in the end, the file was closed.

PID officials said yesterday that they lacked any means of extracting confessions from officers, such as the authority to compel them to undergo polygraph tests - the results of which are in any event not admissible in court.

The officer in question, Chief Inspector Yitzhak Shimoni, led two other officers in a chase after Asleh on October 2, 2000. However, he was first summoned for a polygraph test last year - about two years after publication of the Or Commission's report on the incidents.

On one occasion, Shimoni told the PID that he was unable to take the test because his cell phone was broken, and therefore he did not know about the appointment. Another time, he told the detectives, "it didn't work out, it's too far and that's why I didn't come," adding that he was "very, very hurt" by the requests and that he was completely sure of his innocence.

The sixth time, when Shimoni actually did come to the police laboratory, he refused to answer any question other than "did you shoot the youth?" and left without completing the examination.

One of the other two officers involved in the incident told investigators to "check all the officers at the scene, and then you'll see that investigating me is superfluous. I know I am blameless." The polygraph test cleared both him and the third officer, who said in the test that neither of them had opened fire. Neither was asked if he knew who had shot Asleh, however.

Adalah officials contend that the PID should at least have made Shimoni's refusal to take the lie detector test public rather than "creating the false impression that the investigation was thorough." According to Adalah Director General Hassan Jabareen, the PID should have used more sophisticated means of investigation.

"Why didn't they stage a confrontation among the three officers who chased after Asleh together? They should have continued to press the point," Jabareen said.

Asel Asleh, of Arabeh, participated in a protest by residents of the town near the Galilee city of Sakhnin on October 2. Asleh was active in the Seeds of Peace movement and participated in various activities to promote Jewish-Arab coexistence.

When the three officers were assigned to arrest rioters near Lotem Junction, Asleh was among those who fled the scene. According to eyewitness accounts, he slipped a couple of times and then fell in a nearby olive grove. The officers approached him and found him already shot. They left, and Asleh was evacuated by friends. He died at the Nahariya Hospital.

Asleh's case occupies two large binders, including the three officers' testimony before the Or Commission, ballistics documents and notes from the PID investigation.

Sources close to the investigation told Haaretz last week that the investigation reached a very advanced stage before coming to a halt over the refusal by Asleh's family to exhume his body in order to extract the bullet for tests.